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U.S. imposes new sanctions on Iran oil sector

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WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Tuesday imposed new economic sanctions on Iran’s oil export sector and on a pair of Chinese and Iraqi banks accused of doing business with Tehran.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama said the new measures underlined the United States’ determination to force Tehran “to meet its international obligations” in nuclear negotiations.

The sanctions came on the same day as the US State Department branded Iran “an active state sponsor of terrorism” in its 2011 annual terrorism report, and as US lawmakers prepared to vote legislation demanding more action.

Obama is keen to show his Iranian sanctions regime is tough, amid fears Israel may launch unilateral strikes against Iran if it believes the Islamic regime is on the point of achieving the capability to build a nuclear bomb.

“This action is designed to deter Iran from establishing payment mechanisms for the purchase of Iranian oil to circumvent existing sanctions,” Obama said, warning that US sanctions will apply to any entity buying Iranian oil.

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Obama said measures would be taken against firms that have dealings with the National Iranian Oil Company, the Naftiran Intertrade Company or the Central Bank of Iran or that help Iran buy US dollars or precious metals.

And he accused the Bank of Kunlun in China and the Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq of arranging transactions worth millions of dollars with Iranian banks already under sanctions because of alleged links to Tehran’s weapons program.

Obama said these two institutions would henceforth be denied access to the US financial system, as would any banks caught dealing with Iran in future.

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“Today’s action makes it clear that we will expose any financial institution… that allows the increasingly desperate Iranian regime to retain access to the international financial system,” he said.

Separately, the US Treasury Department confirmed details of the sanctions and allegations against Chinese and Iraqi banks accused of dealing with Iranian firms with alleged links to weapons proliferation and terrorism.

“As financial institutions around the world have cut ties with these designated Iranian banks, Bank of Kunlun and Elaf Islamic Bank took the opposite approach,” the statement said.

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The Treasury said the Beijing-based Bank of Kunlun provided services to at least six Iranian banks that have been placed under US sanctions because of their alleged roles in Iran’s weapons of mass destruction programs.

In particular, it is alleged Kunlun made roughly $100 million in payments from accounts it held for the Iran’s Bank Tejarat and made a payment on behalf of an entity linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Baghdad-based Elaf Islamic Bank, meanwhile, is alleged to have “engaged in activity during the past year worth tens of millions of dollars with the Export Development Bank of Iran.”

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Israel has its own undeclared nuclear arsenal, but fears a nuclear-armed Iran would shift the balance of power in an already volatile Middle East or that its fierce foe Tehran might try to eradicate the Jewish state.

During a visit to Tunisia on Monday at the start of a Middle East tour, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said sanctions were having a “serious impact” on the Iranian economy, even if their results may not be immediately obvious.

Obama’s opponent in November’s US presidential election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney, was unimpressed by the new measures, arguing in a statement that “On Iran, President Obama has led from behind.”

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The Romney camp noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said last week that international sanctions had so far made “not one iota” of difference to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“The president’s refusal to take a tough stance when it comes to Iran has imperiled our allies and jeopardized our national security,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams.

The goal of the US sanctions, which are mirrored by similar measures by the European Union and other major economies, is to force Iran to negotiate a deal to put its nuclear program under international supervision.

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Tehran insists it has a right to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear energy and research, but Western powers fear it is attempting to stockpile enough highly-enriched fuel to have a “break-out capability” to build a bomb.


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Fox News cuts into Trump’s Turning Point USA speech after he starts rambling about handshakes

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Fox News on Tuesday briefly interrupted a speech being delivered by President Donald Trump at a Turning Point USA summit.

During his speech, Trump started talking about delivering a commencement address at the Air Force Academy.

"They said, sir, would you like to shake the hands of all the cadets? I said how many other? They said 1,100. I said yeah, that sounds okay,” Trump remarked.

“Do other presidents do it? Yes, they do. Do all of them? What they didn’t say is they start, then they peter out. That sun was beaming down, and if some of these guys are great athletes — some of the women, they had some women in the class, their hands were very strong, okay.”

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Hundreds of orgs, political and religious leaders demand Pompeo abolish his anti-LGBTQ ‘Commission on Unalienable Rights’

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'Harmful to the Global Effort to Protect the Rights of All People and a Waste of Resources'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday was sent letters signed by hundreds of human rights organizations, activists, and supporters, along with religious and political leaders demanding he abolish his newly-formed anti-LGBTQ and anti-women "Commission on Unalienable Rights."

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Meghan McCain gets schooled after complaining Brett Kavanaugh was treated worse than Al Franken

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Meghan McCain noticed the asymmetry in the accusations of sexual misconduct against Al Franken and Brett Kavanaugh, even if she overlooked how those allegations eventually played out.

"The View" tackled a New Yorker piece published by Jane Mayer, who believes the Minnesota Democrat was "railroaded" out of the U.S. Senate over sexual harassment claims, and McCain said Democrats had no choice but to force him to resign.

"Imagine him questioning Brett Kavanaugh at the time," McCain said, "which by the way, the writer who wrote this article, Jane Mayer, wrote a 2018 piece about allegations of Brett Kavanaugh that's been panned because the only corroborating witness said he had heard the story but he didn't remember it now, so it's very tricky."

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